Dr. Taz MD, Solutions for Living Healthy Naturally: Diabetes Awareness

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. The goal of Diabetes Awareness Month is to stop diabetes by finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes and spreading information about how to prevent Type 2 diabetes. Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes and another 79 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes [1]. Diabetes is a chronic disease requiring constant vigilance and maintenance; it can lead to nerve damage, blindness, kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, and death.

Diabetes is a metabolic disease resulting from either the body’s inability to produce insulin as in Type 1 diabetes or, the body’s cell’s inability to efficiently use insulin as in Type 2 diabetes. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that assists cells in absorbing and metabolizing glucose [2]. If there is not enough insulin or the cells cannot use the insulin present in the body, glucose builds up in the blood causing high blood sugar. As far as we know, Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented because it is an autoimmune disease that attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin [2]. Type 2 diabetes however, can be prevented. Type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance which is when muscle, fat and liver cells stop responding properly to insulin. The body’s cells require more insulin to make them absorb glucose and eventually the pancreas cannot keep up with the demand for insulin and glucose levels rise [2]. Preventing Type 2 diabetes is as simple as eating healthy, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight [3]. For healthy eating, make sure your diet includes enough fiber; it will improve blood sugar control and lower the risk of heart disease [3]. Aerobic exercise, as opposed to resistance exercise, has shown to significantly improve insulin resistance [4].

Now what if you already have Type 2 diabetes? Diet, exercise and weight control are still vitally important in treatment; but to regulate blood sugar, your doctor might prescribe medications that increase insulin production or increase cell’s sensitivity to insulin. There are also a number of supplements that have shown promise in regulating diabetes. Alpha lipoic acid has the strongest evidence supporting its effectiveness [5]. Other supplements that have shown

potential are cinnamon which increases glucose uptake, ginseng which is hypothesized to play a role in carbohydrate metabolism, and fenugreek which stimulates insulin production and inhibits enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism. If you do decide to try treating your diabetes with supplements, make sure you discuss them with your doctor because some can interact with medications.

Diabetes is a time-consuming and usually permanent burden. When controlled, it does not have to hold you back from life. If you are at risk for developing diabetes, already have it, or know someone who is, educate yourself and pass on this information. Knowing what causes diabetes and how to prevent it is how we can stop diabetes.


1.American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Awareness Month Fact Sheet.

2.National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “Causes of Diabetes. “National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 9 Sept. 2013. Web. 31 Oct. 2013. <http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/causes/>.

3.Staff, Mayo Clinic. “Diabetes Prevention: 5 Tips for Taking Control.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 29 May 2013. Web. 31 Oct. 2013.<http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetes-prevention/DA00127>.

4.Davidson LE, Hudson R, Kilpatrick K, Kuk JL, McMillan K, Janiszewski PM, et al. Effects of exercise modality on insulin resistance and functional limitation in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(2):122–31.

5.Tackett, Kimberly L., and Melissa C. Jones. “Complementary And Alternative Medicines For The Treatment Of Diabetes.” Journal Of Pharmacy Practice 22.6 (2009): 546-552.Academic Search Premier. Web. 31 Oct. 2013.